August 28, 2013

Kaizen and the art of human wa maintenance

An ex-resident and frequent visitor finds convenience and joy in the little things that Japan does so damn well

Little things matter. This truth is hard-wired into the Japanese psyche.

Kaizen — the Japanese practice of continuous improvement through small, incremental changes — is well-known and influential worldwide. At least in the West, kaizen is primarily thought of as a method for improving manufacturing, engineering and other business processes.

But kaizen goes much deeper in Japan. Kaizen here is organic, ubiquitous and attuned to the physical and psychological needs of human beings. At its best, this “human-scale kaizen” (HSK) eliminates or eases many of the mundane uncertainties, annoyances and embarrassments of daily life.